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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Verse 3.11 — another letting go

All the technicalities of outlook practice, and behavior
Are, in terms of what is natural, just intellectual chaff.
Let correctives based on mindfulness, position and effort subside into space.
With the chosen discipline of not naming wandering or not wandering,
Just let things be — not sending out or drawing in, not keeping or removing.
There’s a space there — free from the complications of effort.

Having set the stage in the last verse, Jigmé Lingpa takes the next fifteen lines to cut through any kind of effort in practice. 

Mind is how we experience life, how we experience ourselves, how we experience the world. In this sense, there is nothing that is not mind. Obviously, this is quite different from the idealist interpretations of much Mahayana Buddhist teaching, which are textbook examples of what Jigmé Lingpa was decrying in the preceding verse.

As meditation practice deepens, we become less and less concerned with the what of experience and more and more concerned with the how. This shift is not without its challenges. Because of our physical, emotional and cognitive conditioning, what we experience triggers, elicits or stimulates a wide range of somatic, emotional and cognitive reactions. For those who are drawn or compelled to pursue direct awareness, all those reactions are just stuff and we build an increasing capacity to experience them as movement rather than fact. In the process, we discover a kind of awareness that is always there, that is utterly clear and immediate, that we may have never seen or noticed before. Sometimes we happen on it by accident, sometimes it is pointed out to us, sometimes it arises after years of effort. It doesn’t matter how we come to it. Once we know it and see its implications, life is never the same

Now we enter a deep and difficult paradox. On the one hand, if we engage with content in anyway, we lose touch with that awareness — we drop out of it. On the other hand, conversations take place, food is eaten, the tasks of the day are done and our lives unfold — it’s as if life takes place in the awareness and “I”, as a separate entity, is not even in the picture. 

Obviously, this is difficult to talk about. At this point in practice, ideas, explanations, frameworks, techniques, guidelines, etc. have little meaning. If we try to rely or hold on to any of these, we fall back into ordinary conceptual knowing. This is why we find so many analogies, similes and metaphors in the traditional texts. 

Through our training, we have also developed certain abilities that have become second nature to us. We have trained to become acutely aware of wandering and not wandering. In creation phase practice we have trained in expanding the power and scope of attention by imagining that we send out light, deities, dakinis or messengers to every corner of the universe and then draw in the vitality and energy of the universe into the core of our being. In completion phase, we have similarly trained in building, guiding and spreading energy and in dissolving all conceptual experience through expansion or contraction. We have become adept at adjusting, adding a little effort here, resting a bit there, so that attention becomes consistent, clear and stable. Naturally, these patterns from our training are also going to arise. If we try to block them or stop them, we create further problems. 

As these impulses or habits of practice arise, we do nothing. We rest in the direct immediate awareness, letting them arise and play themselves out. Strangely, this both deepens the experience in these practices while releasing our investment in them. Again, this is not the same as observing them, which involves taken a stance that is somewhat separate from experience. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s more like being aware while being inside the practice. Sometimes it seems that practice takes place inside the awareness. A common metaphor for mind and awareness is the ocean. We are in the water, we are the water, but we are not just the waves at the surface. Nor are we just the still depths. We are all of it, and we are all of it without thinking that we are all of it. As soon as we think we are all of it, we are back into conceptual experience. 

These are difficult waters to navigate. I won’t pretend that there are easy or even straightforward answers or that everything always turns out for the best. In fact I go further. I no longer feel there is a single path, or even that different paths necessarily converge on a common goal. But I do feel that most of us, through a combination of our own efforts and the guidance of those who have come to their own understanding, can experience what it is to be utterly and completely free of the complications of effort.

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